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Eva "Evita" Perón: 1919–1952: Political Leader

Became Political Leader

Although Eva Perón never held an official title in her husband's administration, her work through the Department of Labor and Welfare demonstrated her commitment to improving the lives of the poorest segments of Argentine society. Fueled in part by memories of her own mistreatment during her youth and a political shrewdness that capitalized on her husband's support by the country's working classes, Perón championed the cause of the "descamidados," (literally, "shirtless ones") in a number of ways. After setting up the María Eva Duarte de Perón Foundation in 1948, an estimated three billion pesos were spent on new houses, hospitals, clinics, and household items for the poor. The fact that the foundation's funds came from other government programs and in some cases, outright extortion of businesses, fueled charges that the Perónist government was corrupt. Indeed, to her critics Perón's actions were designed merely to increase support for her husband'regime at the expense of any sustainable long-term reforms.

Her goodwill trip to Europe in the summer of 1947 also demonstrated the conflicting images that Eva Perón presented to the public. While she was greeted like a movie star in Spain, her expensive dresses and jewels—as well as the growing political repression in Argentina—caused a public uproar in Italy, where charges of fascism against her husband's government were revived. Her European tour, however, put the finishing touches on the First Lady's public persona. Simply dressed, her dyed-blond hair pulled back into two coiled braids, and rarely without jewels, Eva Perón was an original creation that combined aspects of the faithful political wife and independent social activist. For her part, Perón claimed that her work merely reflected her admiration of her husband—often speaking about him in Christ-like terms—and her dedication to the descamisados.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalEva "Evita" Perón: 1919–1952: Political Leader Biography - Worked As An Actress, Became Political Leader, Death Moved A Nation